Conference highlights promising future for the pharmacy profession in PH
The several strides and milestones achieved by the Philippine Pharmacists Association (PPhA) resulted in expanding opportunities for Philippine pharmacists. With PPhA’s efforts, the integral role of pharmacists in patient management is now more recognized by the Filipino public. In addition to reliably filling prescriptions behind the drugstore counter, pharmacists are now known for their close collaboration with other healthcare professionals as well as for their expertise in the pharmaceutical sciences and other areas.
As stated in the Section 2 of the Republic Act 10918, or the Philippine Pharmacy Law, pharmacists are seen as “vital in delivering quality healthcare services through the provision of safe, effective pharmaceutical products and pharmaceutical care, drug information, patient medication counseling, and health promotion.”
Pharmacists in the country also act as available point persons for patients, especially in rural areas. With the Universal Healthcare Law signed, the “Botika ng Bayan” initiative was revived, placing registered pharmacists to also handle some health consultations and patient counseling.
With this, the PPhA held an online forum, titled “Looking Forward: The Future of Pharmacy Profession in the Philippines.” The virtual conference, attended by more than 750 pharmacists from all over the country, discussed how Filipino pharmacists can become globally competitive professionals. One of the ways is by examining their role in the healthcare system today and identifying growth and specialization opportunities for their practice.
‘Pharmacist na may puso’
The forum was opened by Hon. Adelina Royo, member of the Philippine Regulatory Commission-Board of Pharmacy (PRC-BoP). She also serves as chair of BoP’s Committee on Career Progression.
Hon. Royo introduced the Career Progression and Specialization Program – Credit Accumulation and Transfer System (CPSP-CATS). She explained how pharmacists can grow their skill set, knowledge, and expertise so they can handle more specialized pharmaceutical roles beyond handling prescriptions.
The CPSP covers three professional levels, based on different degrees of specialization. The Competent level is for the registered pharmacists who passed the board examination and are expected to be equipped with “suitable and sufficient skills, expertise, and knowledge to practice their profession.” Meanwhile, the Proficient level would require advanced knowledge in their field and enhanced skills through training and specialization. Lastly, the Expert level will expect pharmacists to have a comprehensive knowledge and authoritative expertise useful for research and improvement of the pharmaceutical profession.
“We want a pharmacist with a heart, someone with improved ‘soft skills’ to be able to handle patients too,” Hon. Royo said. “Adversity is the mother of innovation. It’s either we pivot or perish,” she added.
Hon. Royo also discussed the idea of “Pharma-preneurship,” or the specialized curriculum and training geared towards new registered pharmacists “to equip them with skills to become a pharmacist, clinician, and entrepreneur with a viable pharmaceutical business.”
The multi-disciplinary roles of a pharmacist
Continuing from this, PPhA President Ma. Gilda Sebua-Saljay talked about how the pharmacy “profession is also their business.” Following the “Pharma-preneur” ideal for today’s pharmacists, she proposed that the said practitioners can also be point persons for their “one-stop health hub” goal. With the CSP-CATS program of the BoP, the PPhA also devised a three-tiered specialization program that pharmacists can undergo to improve their practice.
“The PPhA vision states that we are an organization of caring medication experts valued in the healthcare system,” said Sebua-Saljay. In the PPhA’s specialization program, the pharmaceutical practice will have a General Practice, Advanced, and Specialized tier.
The General practice will cover the baccalaureate degree knowledge of the field and actual practice as a pharmacist. The Advanced practice will have a wider scope as pharmacists will also become educators, community medical counselors, and healthcare providers. As for the Specialized practice, they can choose which fields to optimize their knowledge and expertise in.
She also explained the role of pharmacists through the “Botika ng Bayan” initiative of the Department of Health (DOH), which made drug clinics as a “one-stop hub” for health services. “Botikas are also expected to be omni-channel for healthcare provisions, that is also giving diagnostics and basic health check-ups besides knowing medication prescriptions,” she explained.
Ms. Sebua-Saljay added how the PPhA is also looking into making their system automated so that pharmacists will have more time for patient consultations as well. Thus, making the pharmacy practice a valuable asset for the healthcare system, especially in places with limited access to it, such as in rural and hard-to-reach areas in the Philippines.
Looking forward to specialization and immunization
In one of the polling questions asked during the event, attendees of the conference responded that they are looking forward to the immunization training program of PPhA is in 2021. The role of pharmacists in adult vaccination, like pneumococcal or flu vaccines, is also part of the Pharmacy Law.
Pharmacist Bryan Posadas, moderator of the event, who also serves as the PPhA National Program Manager for Pharmacy-Based Immunization, gave a preview of the next steps and timelines for this training. According to Mr. Posadas, the PRC BoP will soon be releasing the guidelines for the program cascade. More details will be shared in the Part II of Looking Forward: The Future of Pharmacy Profession in the Philippines in December 2020. This event is organized by PPhA, in partnership with health care company, MSD in the Philippines.
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